Once you get the hang of the in's and out's of facebook, youtube and twitter, I think most Seniors who are anti-social media will find endless delight. The KEY is family support. Not only does it offer tons of games, videos, music and fun, its a great way to connect with friends and loved ones.
Some of my friends upload photos and video of the grandchildren, and what sweet Grandma isn't going to love seeing Suzy at her first recital almost instantly thanks to the internet and online video.
Others use the internet sites like facebook and twitter with great success for their local businesses.
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I have encountered some community groups in my social media learning curve who scoffed at my offer to do a facebook event page for them. "Why would anyone possibly want an event page on facebook, what's the point?" they exclaimed, the board says "No!" The "board" this person confessed was made up of seniors who had disdain for facebook and social media and saw no purpose for it.
I went and made the facebook event page anyways, and if I remember correctly, over 500+ people clicked attending.
But what to do when the Sunshine Coast, BC is currently over 50% seniors? I think we need to reach out more and help in any way we can to make social media fun for seniors, even if that means me conducting workshops on how to make a facebook profile.
I decided that I had to go to an expert. I talked with Bob D'Arcy who runs the Sechelt Seniors and Gibsons Seniors websites. I asked him about his experience with social media and people 55+.
Bob loves the internet and does website design as well as helping people keep their computers in good technical running order. His websites for seniors on the coast are excellent and informative resources for our community.
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Bob told me straight up that in his experience here on the Sunshine Coast it is problem enough to get Seniors to even look at a website or do email.
He says it all goes back to the family.
Does the family help the senior with getting started? Show them how? Give them perhaps a second hand computer to become familiar with the internet?
Security concerns, whether warranted or not, is the main stumbling block he hears a lot from seniors fearful of all the media hype about facebook stealing your soul.
Bob thought he might make his website accessible for the cell phone set, but discovered many seniors keep their cell phones in the glove compartment for emergency purposes only.
He was happy that things are changing, that his seniors websites are gaining credibility. Bob pulled up some stats for me, which showed there were an average of 350 unique visitors a month in 2009 but in 2010 that number has risen to 400. Good news.
So I asked Bob, what are seniors doing for entertainment and where are they getting their information? "The phone and socializing at the mall" he said.
I teased him that the teens have left the malls, are now on facebook and seniors have taken over the roost and hanging out like mall rats. We both laughed. But you know what, he agreed.
When I look at my friends online, my senior friends, I am amazed at how well they have embraced social media and really enjoy it.
In the article Social Media Minute: Seniors Embrace The Web By Jason Harris, "a new study put out by the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, says baby boomers are quite comfortable online, are engaging in sites such as Facebook and love being on their computer."
An article by Mashable called Why Your Grandpa Is on Facebook cites a recent survey by the
American Association of Retired Persons on social media use.
The AARP spent some time last month interviewing 1,360 adults over the phone. The Association found that more than a quarter (27%) of Americans age 50 and older use social networks. Facebook is the most popular — in fact, 23% of all survey respondents said they preferred it to sites such as MySpace (MySpace), LinkedIn (LinkedIn) and Twitter.
When I look at the stats for the Sunshine Coast BC Canada fan page on facebook it shows that my social media networks have an excellent cross section of all ages and in the 45-55 age bracket 15% and 55+ 9%. Compare that to the 13-17 year old at 12%; 18-24 at 24%; 25-24 at 19%; and 35-44 at 18%.
Definitely I think that could be higher for the 55+ group but its understandable considering the resistance I have found from some seniors to social media, especially with all the invasion of privacy doom and gloom over hype in the media.
I think with the encouragement of friends, family and grand kids, more seniors would enjoy the social opportunities of facebook.
The stats and internet use seems to point in that direction. They say more seniors are getting hip with facebook and twitter, and most importantly loving it!
All in the Facebook family: older generations join social networks by CNN states that one of the main reasons is families are scattered around the globe, and social media brings them together.
One of the driving reasons more seniors are loving facebook is that fears over privacy issues are being dealt with as the learning curve of this new online social network matures.
A simple thing is to just not allow the year you are born to be public.
One of the big issues with facebook lately is using your information for directed advertising. Basically what is happening is facebook notices you really love heavy metal rock, so it directs unobtrusive ads more in theme with that. I think that is way better then getting tons of ads wanting you to go to see the opera when it just ain't your thing, but if ACDC is coming to town you know about it right away.
I do realize there are some definite differences on privacy between youth and seniors, but facebook allows you to set these to your liking. For myself, I allow everything to be public, and so does most everyone else.
If you want to look at photos of me swimming in the ocean, a recent play I was in, or behind the scenes of a video shoot I was acting in no problem. I think this is only fair when I ask people to be open with me as I cover their lives and stories as a photo journalist.
I would really like to hear your thoughts on seniors and social media. I think facebook would be an even better place with more of them joining us. The question is how?
Thanks so much for reading my blog and all your comments, feedback, story ideas and support. Best Wishes! Duane Burnett
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